How I Screwed Up Deploying A $200k Sound System

Here’s Nathan Lively (kindly) shredding an early design of mine. This was a HUGE, huge AHA moment for me.

Three Big Things I Learned

1. I had overlaid my previous experience with manhandling constant curvature arrays with how to configure line arrays.

Most of the venues I had flown arrays had really low ceilings, therefore creating a high front to back distance ratio, calling for some aggressive shading and/or EQ’ing to get the high frequency coverage even.

However, I was still not aware of the lobing artifacts in the constant curvature arrays I was hanging. I was trading even HF coverage for some low mid scrambling. I had a followup question to Nathan on deploying VRX932LAP boxes specifically, and he answered my questions in another awesome video.

2. True line arrays use the splay angles between boxes, not gain shading to get even front to back coverage.

Again, going back to my skewed constant curvature experience, the only way to create a level offset between zones each box was covering was to use gain shading or EQ. I’ve now learned that in true line arrays that shading HF is acceptable with proper filtering, but adjusting the entire level of the box creates low mid issues.

For those new to sound system design, having higher overlap between line array boxes helps those boxes “couple” and throw farther. That might be <3° of splay. A higher splay (>8°), will achieve more high frequency isolation, therefore spreading out the “power” of those boxes. Gross oversimplification here, but if you want to dive deep, get my audio math survival spreadsheet, read Bob’s book cover to cover, and watch every video Nathan has.

3. Use trim height to your advantage so you don’t have to ask your line array to do the impossible.

My wonderful friend Cameron Magee showed me an illustration here I’ll never forget. He took out a flashlight and laid it flat on a desk so it was shining perpendicular to it.

“Here’s a speaker on the ground.” I looked and saw a bright spot right in front of the flashlight, then the light slowly tapered off to the back.

“Now, here’s a speaker in the air”. He lifted the flashlight up 8 inches and tilted it down at a 45° angle. The ultra bright spot vanished and more light was shared over the desk.

The inverse square law illustrated through light. Brilliant.

The takeaway? Line arrays were designed to overcome this front to back ratio issue, but they’re not magic boxes. Getting the array higher in the air gives the array a head start in even coverage.


Published by Michael Curtis


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